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History Of The MINI

Updated March 28, 2014

History of The MINI

The Mini has gone through many changes through the years, from the original, classic Mini and the Mini Cooper, through to its current ownership by BMW and the New MINI. Throughout its history, however, the Mini has been associated with exceptional British designer, an iconic combination of a compact size and racing power, and a number of special editions and variants that continue to make the brand one of the most sought after in the world. Reviewing how the Mini has changed over the years, we can appreciate the ongoing impact enjoyed by the car in the BMW era.

The original Mini was designed by BMC and Sir Alex Issigonis as a compact, two door car that could provide an alternative to the Morris Minor and German ‘bubble’ cars for city driving. The original Austin and Morris Minis used a four cylinder, transverse mounted engine and front wheel drive to conserve space, as well as a distinctive monocoque shell. The early popularity of the brand in the 1960s was strengthened by the creation of the sportier Mini Cooper and Mini Cooper S models with the Cooper Car Company with the latter achieving iconic status as a rally car and one of the stars of the 1967 film The Italian Job.

Although the Mini continued to be produced throughout the 1970s and the 1980s, it became more of a limited edition vehicle, with the Mini Clubman and new marques representing a popular, but less revolutionary model. The Mini Cooper brand was also separated and licensed to other car manufacturers. In 1994, BMW took control of Mini producer the Rover Group, and after releasing a series of Minis under Rover’s control, relaunched the brand as the New MINI in the 2000s.

The New MINI retained the classic transverse engine and compact design of the original car, but explored new engines and specifications. The 2001 MINI Hatch and Hardtop first generations were joined by rebranded Coopers, Cooper S’s, and Cooper Ones, and primarily made use of a 1.6 litre Tritec engine. Sportier adaptations from the Cooper were also promoted through John Cooper Works kits during the same period, as were adaptations for convertibles.

The second generation of the MINI appeared in 2006, and made use of a more fuel efficient Prince engine, while Coopers and Cooper S’s received diesel powered variations. New models included the Mini Cooper Clubman, as well as race car John Cooper Works Challenge vehicles. BMW have experimented with more significant alterations to the compact Mini design, which have included the MINI Countryman, and five door crossover SUVs, as well as sportier MIINI Coupes and Roadsters.

The continuing appeal of the MINI speaks to its association with traditional British design, and to its status as a car with large amounts of personality, as well as to its high performance and lightweight design. Improvements in fuel efficiency and hybrid and hydrogen experiments are also testing the future of the MINI, as are further attempts to make the Mini Cooper S a competitive part of rallying and other racing challenges.

Rob James is a mechanic and a kit car enthusiast.  He often can be found at car rallies showing off his latest build.  Rob likes to blog about kit cars, general maintenance, and BMW’s.

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Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. GearHeads.org gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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